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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns start Summer League 1-1

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And the Fantable weighs in on Summer League, the off-season and #TheTimeline

2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings W (89-85) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks L (88-77) Box Score

Finally, some real Suns basketball to talk about! Yeah it's only Summer League games but as the Suns are in a rebuild that may be long term we are getting a glimpse of some of the players that we hope will make that future a bright one.

I have mixed feelings about the two game the Summer Suns have played so far. In both games they looked like a group of guys that have been playing together for only about a week... which is what they are. The effort is there as seems to be the individual talent but they aren't really at the point that I would call them a team yet. I've seen flashes of really good ball movement and then some bad passes the led to turnovers.

As much as I like the way Mike James has played I can't help but wonder how much better this team could be if Tyler Ulis was running point instead. And Derrick Jones Jr needs to be this team's 6th man, not Davon Reed. I love DJJ but this squad needs more three point shooting in the starting lineup and I think that Reed is also a better ball handler than Jones. Dragon Bender has played well though both games but has had some bloopers from time to time... as have others. Josh Jackson has yet to be the leading scorer in either game but he is the team leader in point per game average so far (16.5 ppg) and has averaged 8.5 rebounds per game. Marquese Chris needs to settle down and play more under control. He's leading the team in personal fouls (14) and turnovers (15) but I have to give him credit for aggressively going after rebounds and averaging 9.5 per game so far.

To get far in this year's Summer League the Suns are going to have to cut down on their turnovers (42) and fouls (57). I like the effort but the results aren't what I was hoping for.

And now for a few comments from our Fantable on Summer League.

GuarGuar: Thoughts on Summer League Game 1:

Davon Reed really impressed me. I think he can have a spot in our rotation if he continues this play.

Chriss and Bender didn’t impress with their efficiency, but I liked some of the skills they showed.

Josh Jackson looks like a promising 2 way player.

Thoughts on Summer League Game 2:

Ew,ew,ew,ew,ew

Josh Jackson can play.

ew,ew,ew,ew,ew

SDKyle: Obviously our marquee summer league guys could have been better. Reed was great against the Kings, not against the Mavs. Jackson's hustle was good, especially crashing the boards, but he hasn't found his rhythm on offense yet. Chriss clearly SHOULD be playing, Bender still needs work. Hats off to James.

SouthernSun: I saw exactly what I was hoping to see from Josh Jackson. He was focused on defense and hounded the opposition mercilessly, while also being all over the place on offense, cutting, making good passes, and even sort of took over the game at the end. We all knew his shot wasn't going to be going in much right now, especially while he's in the middle of literally re-making it with the coaching staff, so I think he met my expectations.

Bender actually shot the 3 well, which is one of the major things I was looking for. He also looked great on defense. He and Jackson are going to be a very good duo on that end of the floor. I'm fine with trying Bender out running the offense now in summer league some, if only to help polish his his playmaking abilities. I don't ever expect him to actually play point guard at all, but it would be nice if he could give us a little of what Jokic gives the Nuggets from the 4 or 5 spot.

Chriss looked like a monster. Even with all the fouls and turnovers, I am very happy with what I saw from him on Friday. He bulked up, and now for the rest of the summer it's time to turn a lot of that into muscle. He'll lose a few pounds in the process of toning up, but I think he's close to actually being the size he needs to be now. When he was aggressive on the inside, things went great. Like Booker said during the broadcast, he needs to be encouraged to not settle for the 3, and take it inside, because his athleticism gives him such an advantage over other players. He's going to go the free throw line a whole lot in his career.

Reed was spectacular for a 2nd round guy I didn't expect much out of. Let's see if he continues playing like that throughout summer league. He plays within himself. Catch and shoots on offense, and a good defender. His 7 foot wingspan can definitely bother other SGs. Someone made a Danny Green comparison that I saw, and I really like that. We should be so lucky.

Player Stats

Josh Jackson - 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 2.5 TOpg

Marquese Chriss - 15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 7.5 TOpg

Mike James - 15.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.0 spg, 3.0 TOpg

Davon Reed - 14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 3.0 TOpg

Dragan Bender - 10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.0 TOpg

Derrick Jones Jr - 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.5 TOpg

The rest of the squad has played only a total of 31 minutes in both games combined.

Stats courtesy of ESPN.

What about #TheTimeline?

If you thought the Fantable comments about Summer League was it for them this week you are mistaken. Summer League is just a blip on the radar in #TheTimeline and there are plenty things yet to discuss... so lets do it!

For the most part the Western Conference has gotten stronger so far during this off-season. With one exception (Gordon Hayward) trades and free agent signings are bringing top talent from the East (Jimmy Butler, Paul George & Paul Millsap) to the West. After briefly flirting with the idea of pursuing some of the bigger names in free agency the Suns have decided to stick with "#TheTimeline" and develop it's youth for the future. The plan for Phoenix now is use their cap space to take on bad contracts tied to young promising players and/or future draft picks attached to make it worth our while.

Although I think that this is the best course for the Suns, I also think that the lopsided flow of talent from East to West is going to make the Suns' journey back to relevance even more of an uphill battle in the short term.

And now for this week's questions for the Fantable:

1. What do you think of the Suns' free agency strategy for this off-season (being a salary dump destination while accumulating additional assets)?

GuarGuar: I am a big fan of our free agency strategy this offseason. Our biggest asset is our cap space so why not use it. Hopefully we can get a decent pick out of taking on a bad contract. We haven’t done anything yet but hopefully McD can get a good deal done.

Sun-Arc: I think it’s a sound plan. We aren’t going to jump back into relevance that quickly and bringing in a player like Griffin would have been a PR move more than anything. Letting the youth develop while keeping cap flexibility is a great idea. Using cap space to our advantage in order to improve the team would be great. I liked Dave’s mention of it being a reverse of what the Suns did with the Kurt Thomas trade.

SDKyle: I think the strategy makes sense. None of the major free agents out there made much sense for the Suns, and I think the Suns can get back on the path to contention without having to gamble big on a trade or free agent. The current strategy seems to do the logical thing in banking on the pieces we have in place.

SouthernSun: I myself would have been very happy if we had the chance to meet with Griffin and were able to get him. But then, I'm someone who thinks that having one more good player and maybe winning some games isn't a detriment to the young guys, especially if that player took minutes from guys like Chandler/Len/Williams instead of Chriss and Bender (which he would have). The young guys development would have been fine. I have confidence that, after the bulk they've put on this summer, both Bender and Chriss could serve as a 5, especially Chriss now. The goal of course is having a positionless front court where nobody is necessarily the center or power forward.

However, barring that particular signing, I'm okay with how things are going so far. McDonough has plenty of cap space to work with. Perhaps we jump in as the 3rd team who can absorb a contract from the Cavs or Rockets in the imminent Melo deal and get a guy like Clint Capela. Perhaps some team wants to sign KCP (who the Pistons recently renounced their rights to after the Avery Bradley deal) to a max deal, and need to shed some salary in order to sign him. Enter the Suns to take on some (hopefully decent) veteran with a big contract, and get a future 1st round pick for their trouble. Lots of possibilities.

2. There is still a lot of time for the Suns to make changes during the off-season but if Phoenix makes no significant trades or free agent signings where would you rank the Suns among the 15 teams in the West and why did you give them that rank?

GuarGuar: I can’t give the Suns a definitive rank because our team is based on youth and development. We have a bunch of unknown prospects and aren’t sure what we can get out of them. We can be anywhere from 14th to 8th in my opinion. I’m optimistic we can be in the hunt for the 8 seed but realistically we are around 11-12 in the West.

Sun-Arc: With all their youth, I’d have to start them out in the bottom 3 of the west, again. That is, unless the X’s & O’s get better and the players show more improvement than normal. They could surprise and end up higher, but I’m not expecting that yet.

SDKyle: 13th. I'm optimistically projecting that the Suns can take strides this year and finish ahead of the Kings and Lakers, but its hard to realistically say they're ready to be ranked any higher than that. They still just aren't ready to make the leap, as much as I wish they were.

SouthernSun: I would put the Suns at about 12th in the west now. I think we will be better than the Mavericks, the Lakers, and the Kings. I think that we probably tanked extra hard last season (even in games before Bledsoe was benched), and would have won between 5 and 8 more games last season had we not been so dead set on getting a good pick. Factoring in some improvement from Chriss, Booker, Bender, and Ulis, along with the hopefully immediate impact of Jackson (however small), and I think the team will end up somewhere in the 35ish win mark this year. Just a little below the Jazz and Pelicans.

Here is how I think things will shake out in the West:

Warriors

Rockets

Thunder

Spurs

Timberwolves

Clippers

Grizzlies

Blazers

Nuggets

Pelicans

Jazz

Suns

Lakers

Mavericks

Kings

3. Do you think that "#TheTimeline" could be derailed or at least slowed by all of the added talent in the West?

GuarGuar: “The Timeline” is built around the concept we aren’t ready now but will be in a few years. So the west adding all this short term talent really doesn’t affect the long-term view of this franchise. In fact it may give us an edge in the long run when these teams have steep drop-offs in future free agencies. We may look back in 4-5 years and say this loaded West helped us in the long run.

Sun-Arc: Not really. It was always going to be difficult. By the time we are relevant again, good teams could have come and gone. We have to build this way anyway. A lot of what makes truly contending teams is luck- that GSW drafted multiple generational talents or that Ohio was the birthplace of LBJ. In our past, we drafted and developed great players (KJ, Majerle, Horny… Marion, JJ, Stat) then brought in that one key vet to make it all work (Barkley, Nash). I have to hope it will happen again with our current crew. We still seem to be one or two summers away from that moment. But things could happen fast.

The main keys are:

A) Drafting well (seemingly done-so)

B) Developing the young players (mixed bag)

C) Collecting assets (seemingly done-so)

D) Maintaining cap flexibility (done-so)

E) Striking at the right time (to be determined)

I think they are on the right path. Stay the course for now, improve where you can.

SDKyle: I think it is probable that the increasing power of the West will make it harder for the Suns to rise to the top as soon as I'd like, so in that respect, yes. But I'm not a believer in this literally self-defeating philosophy of intentionally retarding your franchise's development because of what your rivals are doing or have done. The Suns should hold steady with their existing timetable goals and then adjust as needed down the road.

SouthernSun: I don't think the timeline is going to be derailed. Perhaps slowed. Before all of this talent came to the western conference, I assumed that in a couple of years we would be battling the Timberwolves, Blazers, and Nuggets for the 6th, 7th, and 8th seeds. The Wolves have made themselves better than that probably. The Blazers will probably continue to be around this same caliber .500 or slightly better team. We should be their equals in a year or two. The Clippers are going to be a perennial 6th/7th seed for the next several years with Blake, Jordan, Galinari, and their new Euro acquisition Milos (the best point guard you've never heard of). I do see the Grizzlies falling out soon. We could very well get ourselves the 8th seed in 2019. It'll just be a little bit longer before we can start making serious runs in the postseason than we originally thought.

Once again many thanks to our Fantable... GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun!

Quote of the Week

“Everyone loves to see Tyler play, including myself and it (Summer League) could’ve been a great opportunity to take another step forward, but we feel like he finished really strong. He’s here every day. He’s rehabbing every day, he’s getting better. Tyler Ulis is beyond his years in basketball.” - Earl Watson

News & Notes

The NBA’s Treadmill of Mediocrity. The Ringer

Bickley: Starving Suns fans showing great patience and faith. Dan Bickley/AZCentral

Phoenix Suns: Standing pat during Free Agency was the smart move. Sir Charles in Charge

After the Big Bang. The Ringer

Dragan Bender Embraces Point-Forward Role. Suns.com

The 2017 Summer Suns mark the beginning for the team’s core four. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns' Mike James set for 2nd chance: 'It's better than having a regular job'. Richard Morin, The Republic/AZCentral

Phoenix Suns point guard Tyler Ulis itching to return after ankle surgery. Doug Haller/AZCentral

The NBA’s Best Are All Out West. FiveThirtyEight

Suns History in Video

Remember that amazing fourth quarter performance by Goran Dragic against the Spurs?

Too soon?

Suns Trivia

In their 49 year history the Suns have played a total of 4244 regular season and playoff games, winning 53.7% overall.

The Suns have a winning all-time record (including playoff games) against 22 of the 29 other NBA teams. They are tied with two franchises (Milwaukee and New York) and only have all-time losing records against the LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and the Washington/Baltimore Wizards/Bullets.

The Suns have played more games against the LA Lakers (303) than any other NBA franchise. The least amount of total games the Suns have played against another NBA franchise is 41 against the Toronto Raptors.

Statistics courtesy of Land of Basketball.com.

Previewing the Weeks/Months Ahead

Las Vegas Summer League: July 7 - July 17.

Monday July 10 @ 3:30 pm: Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets (NBA TV)

Important Free Agency Dates

July 13: Deadline to withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents

July 15: Deadline to sign first-round draft picks (picks become free agents if not given a required tender)

Sept. 5: Deadline to sign second-round draft picks (picks become free agents if not given a required tender)

Last Week's Poll Results

The question was, "How do you think the Suns will do in Summer League this year?" The results were:

37% - They will win it all!

33% - They will make it to the finals.

24% - They will make it to the semi-finals.

07% - They will disappoint us and flame out early.

There were a total of 268 votes cast.

This week's poll is...

Poll

Do you think it is possible for this Suns team to shock everyone this season as the 2013-14 team did?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Anything is possible!
    (26 votes)
  • 51%
    Maybe but not likely.
    (79 votes)
  • 30%
    Not a chance.
    (47 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now